Roanoke has successfully reinvented itself from a gritty blue-collar railroad hub into a burgeoning, craft-beer soaked, millennial-friendly outdoor mountain town with a cool, freshly restored downtown.
In doing so it has become a model for small cities in Appalachia and the South looking to transcend outdated community narratives. But Roanoke still faces significant challenges in spreading that new prosperity to neighborhoods that have been hit by generations of segregation, deepening economic inequality, a powerful business class with outsized influence on city politics, & a legacy of disruption via urban renewal.
Roanoke’s challenges are those of many other New South towns that also struggle with historic economic immobility. I wrote for Scalawag about the Star City’s struggles, largely through the past and present of its public schools.